He Flew Too Close to the Sun and Melted, Obazee Sacked

Muhammadu Buhari
  •  Buhari orders re-constitution of FRCN board
  • Suspends controversial governance code that ousted Adeboye and sets term limit for Sultan as leader of Moslems

Tobi Soniyi and James Emejo in Abuja and Obinna Chima in Lagos

It was a Tsunami of sort at the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN) monday as President Muhammadu Buhari removed and replaced its Executive Secretary, Mr. Jim Obazee. The president also ordered the reconstitution of the council’s board that had been in abeyance.

Although the president’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, who announced the council’s leadership change did not give reasons for the presidential action, THISDAY checks yesterday pointed at the council’s implementation of the National Code of Corporate Governance for Not-for-Profit Organisations, which led to the stepping down of the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Enoch Adeboye, as head of the church in Nigeria, last weekend as the possible reason.

By setting term limit for heads of Not-for-Profit Organisations, including religious bodies, observers said yesterday, that it was a matter of time before the code would be extended to other faith leaders like the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, who would have stepped down in 2026 as the President-General of Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, having mounted the saddle of leadership in 2006.

This way, Thisday sources said, Obazee, whose agency was also used by the Goodluck Jonathan administration to suspend and remove former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, now Emir of Kano, overreached himself.
Unknown to many people, Obazee had the ambition of becoming the governor of the CBN, a position he was said to have lobbied for after the removal of Lamido. Sources said not even the appointment of Godwin Emefiele as the apex bank helmsman dampened his vaulting ambition as he was said to have gone to the extent of procuring negative reports to undermine the incumbent governor, hoping to benefit from Emefiele’s ouster.

Sources at the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, which supervises the FRCN, however, told THISDAY that Obazee’s intransigence and defiance of the minister, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah’s, directive that the council soft-pedaled over the implementation of the code, which had attracted criticisms and widespread opposition from not just NFPOs but also corporate bodies, did him in.
On the heels of the executive secretary’s sack came the suspension of the controversial code by the federal government monday.

Shehu in a terse statement said the president had appointed a new chairman and a new executive secretary for the council.
The new chairman, according to him, is Mr Adedotun Sulaiman, MFR, a former Managing Partner/Director of Arthur Anderson and later, Accenture. He is a Chartered Accountant and a product of the University of Lagos and Harvard Business School.

In place of Obazee, the president appointed Mr. Daniel Asapokhai as the new Executive Secretary of the Council. He is a partner and a financial reporting specialist at the PricewaterHouseCoopers (PWC), Nigeria. He is a product of the University of Lagos and the University of Pretoria.
Shehu said the president had also instructed the Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment to invite the 19 ministries, departments and agencies of the federal government and private sector organizations specified in the FRC Act to nominate members of the board of the council.
Since the Council initiated the unified National Code of Corporate Governance (NCCG) in 2013, the policy had been enmeshed in controversy, whereby some private sector operators dragged the FRCN to court.

A Federal High Court had in 2015 granted an interim injunction against the FRCN, which led to the postponement of the public hearing of May 19, 2015.
Thereafter, the Court struck out the case for lack of locus standi by the claimant and vacated the injunction.

Following a court ruling in its favour last year, the Council in October 2016 released the NCCG for Private Sector as well as Not-for-Profit Organisations, and deferred the Code for Public Sector.
While the commencement date of the Code was October 17, 2016, the federal government had suspended its enforcement barely three weeks after commencement.

The federal government perceived the Code as being capable of disrupting the management of companies and with the potential of increasing the cost of doing business in Nigeria. Thus, the federal government suspended the enforcement of the Code barely three weeks after its commencement, a decision which was lauded by some investors and shareholders’ groups.

But the Council, which said it derives its powers to enforce corporate governance from Section 50 of the FRC Act, 2011, which among other things requires the directorate of Corporate Governance to develop the principles and practices of Corporate Governance applicable in Nigeria, went ahead with the implementation.

Following Obazee’s intransigence and insistence on implementing the code, Enelamah was said to have queried him sometime in September last year, asking him to explain why he should not be disciplined for acting contrary to the policy of the federal government on the implementation of the code.

His response, which justified the FRCN position was said to have enraged the minister who bided his time, waiting for his chance to deal with his recalcitrant staff.
Enelamah’s chance came last weekend when the enforcement of the Code led to the stepping down of Adeboye and the attendant controversy. The development has continued to attract a lot of debate among Nigerians, especially on all the social media platforms.

Adeboye, it was gathered referred to the corporate governance code as he announced his decision to give up his position.
A source at the FRCN told THISDAY yesterday that the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, as well as Enelamah, who are both pastors in the RCCG, were irked by the enforcement of the FRCN’s code.

Obazee is also a Pastor at the RCCG.

Attempt to reach Obazee proved abortive as his phone was switched off. When contacted, his media consultant, Mr. Mark Ogbomosa, declined to comment.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, yesterday said the federal government had suspended the controversial Corporate Governance Code issued by the FRCN.
He said the decision was to allow for a detailed review and extensive consultation with stakeholders as well as reconstitution of the board of the FRC.
“Government remains committed to restoring and enhancing market confidence and improving the Ease- of-Doing-Business in Nigeria,” he said in a statement by his Special Adviser on Strategic Communication, Ms Constance Ikokwu.

Enelamah added: “Government is committed to strengthening the FRCN and enhancing its capacity to fulfil its core mandate.”

FRCN is one of the parastatals under the supervision of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and it is responsible for setting and promoting compliance with standards for accounting, financial reporting and auditing in Nigeria.
It also regulates the practices of professionals involved in financial reporting and promotes good practices in financial reporting and corporate governance in Nigeria.

Obazee and Controversy with the Church

The recent resignation of Adeboye as the GO of the RCCG, Nigeria was a direct fallout of the implementation of the corporate governance code which limited the tenure of heads of non-governmental organisations, including churches. The suspension of the code may see Adeboye re-emerge the general overseer of the Nigerian establishment.
Only recently, Obazee had warned that religious bodies particularly churches which are currently registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) as ‘Non-Profitable’ organisations might be stripped of that status and rather listed as profitable entities if they fail to make their financial transactions public.

He had further told THISDAY in an interview in Abuja that religious institutions currently objecting to making their financial conducts public were violating sections of the CAC Act, which they had signed at the point of registration that they would hold Annual General Meetings (AGM) and submit their financial conducts for public scrutiny.

But religious bodies feel it is wrong to be compelled to disclose their accounts publicly and are currently in court against the FRC to seek redress.
But Obazee had insisted that the churches do not have strong grounds not to make their financial statements public.

He said: “You have to render stewardship and that’s our major challenges with the churches. We are insisting that non-profit organisations should prepare their accounts and send to us and churches are in court fighting us.

“But we are wondering why ordinarily people who are teaching you how to account to God, how you run your life, are refusing to account to stakeholders how they managed funds that are received from people who believe in the objectives that they are pursuing.”

According to the FRC boss: “Government business is to protect its citizens and the same citizens are the ones putting money in all these non-profit organisations; so we want to know how accountable they are. And if they pursue non charitable activities like running schools, hospitals, airlines and all of that, we want them to account for those ones separately.”
According to him: “Organisations that are talking of not bringing their accounts now are churches-religious organisations; but they don’t really have a very strong platform to stand on-we will do one more workshop to educate them and then; we are government institutions-we will call on the corporate affairs commission to start delisting them.

“They are registered with the corporate affairs commission because if you are registered with the corporate affairs commission under part C as a non-for-profit organisations and you refuse to be accountable, because when they do their registration, they put within the registration document they give to CAC that they’ll be holding annual general meetings and presenting to their members audited financial statements.”

He said: “So if they refuse to prepare their accounts, and we lay this before the CAC, they’ll delist them and once they delist them, they cease to be non-for-profit, they become with profit and so every of their collections will now be subject to tax.”